Regulatory T-cell-mediated inhibition of antitumor immune responses is associated with clinical outcome in patients with liver metastasis from colorectal cancer
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- Brudvik, K.W., Henjum, K., Aandahl, E.M. et al. Cancer Immunol Immunother (2012) 61: 1045. doi:10.1007/s00262-011-1174-4
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Adaptive regulatory T cells (Tregs) contribute to an immunosuppressive microenvironment in colorectal cancer (CRC). Here, we examined whether the level of Treg-mediated inhibition of antitumor immune responses in patients with metastatic CRC (metCRC) selected for liver resection is associated with clinical outcome. Preoperatively and at follow-ups, we did flow-based phenotyping, examined antitumor immunity using peptides from carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) protein in the presence or absence of CD4+CD25+CD127dim/− cells (Tregs) and determined cytokine and PGE2 levels in patient blood samples. At 18 months post-surgery, 8 patients were disease free (7 alive and 1 dead of unrelated cause) and 10 had experienced disease recurrence (7 alive and 3 dead of metCRC). Prior to surgery, the patients demonstrated Treg-mediated suppression of TNFα and IFNγ expression that could be perturbed through the PGE2/cAMP pathway and the immune suppression was significantly higher in the group that later developed disease recurrence (P = 0.046). Furthermore, the post-surgery plasma PGE2 levels were related to the clinical outcome (PGE2 levels of 280 ± 47 vs. 704 ± 153 pg/ml (mean ± SEM) for disease free and recurrent disease, respectively). T-cell phenotyping revealed higher frequencies of COX-2+ cells in the patients with recurrent disease. These findings support the notion that the level of Treg-mediated suppression of adaptive antitumor immune responses at the time of surgery may influence later clinical outcome of metCRC and provide valuable prognostic information.